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  • Micheal Daniel Micheal Daniel
  • 12 min read

What is the difference between Research Paper and Term Paper for college level

We know that for most students, it is difficult to know difference between research paper and term paper for college level. We cannot deny that both have similarities, but ignoring the differences is also not wise. Students have to undertake different academic writing projects like APA rhetorical analysis essays, research papers, reaction papers, or journals.
One of the most interesting things about writing a scholarly paper is that most of them have overlapping features like an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Do not be surprised if you come across students or term paper writers who can’t provide satisfactory differences between different writing projects. Today we will provide the differences between the research papers and term papers so that you can get clarity about the purpose and nature of these academic writing projects.

research paper


What is a Research Paper

A research paper is a scholarly document that presents the findings of an investigation conducted on a specific topic. It involves a systematic exploration of the subject matter, with the goal of contributing new insights, knowledge, or theories to the academic field. Research papers typically require extensive literature review, data collection and analysis, and critical interpretation of the results. They are commonly written by students pursuing higher education or researchers aiming to disseminate their findings.

Definition of Term Paper

On the other hand, a term paper is an academic assignment that is typically submitted at the end of a semester or term. It assesses a student’s understanding and knowledge of a particular course or subject. A term paper involves comprehensive research, but the focus is usually on synthesizing and applying existing knowledge rather than generating new knowledge. It demonstrates a student’s ability to critically analyze and evaluate concepts, theories, or arguments related to the course material.

When is a term paper required

A term paper is typically required at the end of a semester or term as a form of assessment in college courses. It serves as an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the course material and their ability to synthesize and apply knowledge. The specific timing and requirements for term papers may vary depending on the institution, the course, and the instructor.

Term papers are often assigned to evaluate students’ comprehension of the topics covered throughout the term. They can encompass a variety of formats, such as analytical essays, research reports, case studies, or literature reviews. The purpose of a term paper is to showcase students’ mastery of the subject matter, critical thinking skills, and their ability to effectively communicate their ideas in writing.

Instructors usually provide guidelines and a deadline for the term paper, allowing students sufficient time to conduct research, organize their thoughts, and produce a well-written paper. It is essential to consult the course syllabus and the specific instructions provided by the instructor to understand the expectations and requirements for the term paper in your particular course.

When is a research paper a term paper

A research paper and a term paper are two distinct types of academic assignments, but in certain cases, they can overlap and be combined into a single assignment. Here are a few scenarios where a research paper can also be a term paper:

  1. Course with Research Component: In some courses, especially in advanced or specialized subjects, a term paper may require students to conduct original research on a specific topic within the course’s scope. In such cases, the research paper component is integrated into the broader term paper assignment.

  2. Capstone or Culminating Project: In undergraduate or graduate programs, students may be required to complete a capstone project or a culminating research assignment as a term paper. This project often involves conducting extensive research, analyzing data, and presenting a comprehensive paper that demonstrates their mastery of the subject matter.

  3. Independent Study or Research Course: In certain cases, students may undertake an independent study or research course where the culmination of their work is a research paper that serves as a term paper. This allows students to explore a specific topic of interest in-depth and present their findings at the end of the term.

In these situations, the term paper retains the characteristics of a research paper in terms of originality, scope, and depth of analysis. It requires students to conduct thorough research, present their findings, and provide proper citations and references.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and expectations for a combined research and term paper assignment can vary depending on the course, instructor, and institution. Always consult your instructor or course syllabus to understand the specific guidelines and criteria for your research paper/term paper assignment.

when is a research paper not a term paper

A research paper is not a term paper in certain scenarios where the focus and purpose of the assignment differ. Here are a few situations where a research paper is not considered a term paper:

  1. Independent Research Projects: If a research paper is conducted outside the framework of a specific course or term, such as an independent research project or thesis, it would not be classified as a term paper. These projects often span an extended period and involve in-depth research beyond the scope of a single term.

  2. Conference Papers or Journal Articles: Research papers intended for presentation at conferences or publication in academic journals are typically not considered term papers. These papers are often more specialized, rigorous, and aimed at sharing research with a wider scholarly audience beyond the confines of a specific term or course.

  3. Graduate or Doctoral Dissertations: Dissertations, which are comprehensive research projects required for advanced degrees like a Master’s or Ph.D., are not classified as term papers. Dissertations typically involve substantial original research, extensive literature reviews, and comprehensive analysis, and they span an extended period of time.

  4. Research Proposals: A research paper focused solely on proposing a research study, outlining methodology, and providing a theoretical framework without the completion of the actual research is not considered a term paper. Research proposals are often separate from term papers and serve as a preliminary step in planning and gaining approval for future research.

A research paper that extends beyond the scope of a single term, is intended for publication or conference presentation, serves as a graduate-level thesis or dissertation, or solely proposes a research study would not be categorized as a term paper. The term paper typically aligns with the timeframe and objectives of a specific course or term.

research paper writing

When is a term paper a research paper

A term paper can be considered a research paper when it incorporates elements of original research, such as gathering and analyzing data, presenting new insights, or contributing to existing knowledge in a particular field. Here are a few scenarios where a term paper can also be categorized as a research paper:

  1. Original Research Component: If a term paper requires students to conduct primary research, such as surveys, experiments, interviews, or data collection, and then analyze and interpret the results, it can be classified as a research paper. The paper should present an original argument or hypothesis based on the gathered data.

  2. In-depth Literature Review: A term paper that involves an extensive literature review on a specific topic can also be considered a research paper. In this case, the student would thoroughly analyze existing research, critically evaluate different perspectives, and synthesize the findings to present a comprehensive overview of the topic.

  3. Exploration of New Perspectives: If a term paper goes beyond summarizing existing knowledge and incorporates the exploration of new perspectives, alternative theories, or novel interpretations of a subject, it can be categorized as a research paper. This requires the student to engage in independent thinking and provide evidence to support their unique viewpoint.

  4. Contribution to Existing Knowledge: A term paper that aims to contribute new insights, theories, or findings to the academic community can be regarded as a research paper. This could involve conducting original research, proposing a novel approach to a problem, or presenting a fresh analysis of existing data.

When is a term paper not a research paper

A term paper is not considered a research paper in certain situations where the emphasis is on different aspects of academic writing. Here are a few instances where a term paper is not categorized as a research paper:

  1. Summary or Review Papers: If a term paper focuses primarily on summarizing or reviewing existing literature, concepts, or theories without incorporating original research or analysis, it would not be classified as a research paper. Instead, it would serve as a comprehensive overview or synthesis of existing knowledge.

  2. Reflective or Personal Response Papers: In some cases, a term paper may require students to provide a reflective or personal response to course materials, readings, or discussions. These papers often involve expressing personal opinions, reflections, or interpretations rather than conducting original research or presenting new insights.

  3. Coursework-Based Papers: Some term papers may be based solely on coursework, requiring students to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter covered during the term. These papers typically focus on concepts, theories, and ideas discussed in class without necessitating original research or analysis.

  4. Creative or Practical Projects: Depending on the course or discipline, a term paper might take the form of a creative project, such as a portfolio, artistic work, or practical application of knowledge. These projects emphasize hands-on experience or creative expression rather than traditional research methods.

It’s important to note that while a term paper may not include original research, it still serves as an opportunity for students to showcase their understanding of the course material, critical thinking skills, and ability to communicate ideas effectively. The specific requirements and expectations for a term paper can vary depending on the instructor, course objectives, and discipline.

Always consult your course syllabus and the instructions provided by your instructor to determine the nature and requirements of your term paper assignment.



Difference between research paper and term paper

  • The motive of the assignment 

Term paper often relates to a specific subject matter. The sole purpose of writing a term paper is to demonstrate the understanding of a specific subject either during or completion of the term. Such assignments help the tutors to evaluate the interpretation and knowledge of the students. On the other hand, the research paper has vague perspectives including, answering theoretical and methodological questions concerning a specific issue.

  • Length and timelines of the assignments 

Writing a research paper is a lengthy and time-consuming process. The length of a research paper can range from ten pages to a few hundred pages. On the other hand, you will hardly find any term paper that exceeds the length of more than ten pages. The timeline for completing the term assignment is shorter than the research paper. The time assigned to complete the research paper may vary from a few weeks to even a year.

  • Level of difficulty

 Writing research papers is difficult than writing term papers. It is not only the length that contributes to this problem. The intensity of research work and brainstorming required for a research paper is high compared to its counterpart. It is one of the most prominent reasons for the need for the best research paper writing services and professional essay writers to accomplish the research paper writing assignments. The term papers include only the subject matters that you are pursuing in the semester so writing them is comparatively easy than the research papers.

  • Usage of citations and references 

If you are about to undertake a research paper writing assignment then, ignoring the importance of citations and references can prove fatal for your research paper. Whether you are writing argumentative, comparative, or interpretive research, providing relevant references and citations is very vital for the effectiveness of your work. On the other hand, term papers do not include Citations to a scale required while writing research assignments. It is to evaluate what students have gained about a specific subject matter during the term or semester.

  • Scope of writing

The scope of the term papers is limited to a particular subject area or semester of an academic course. The sole purpose of assigning such projects is to evaluate the knowledge of the students. Though students can use previous studies for references, in most cases, they are irrelevant. On the other hand, writing research papers includes exploring past research and excessive investigation of related resources. The sole purpose is to demonstrate the problem-solving capabilities of the students. Your research will always remain incomplete and ineffective without relevant supporting arguments, facts, and figures.

  • Following a specific structure  

While following a structure depending on the nature of the research question is essential while writing research assignments, there is no such hard and fast requirement while drafting the term papers. Research papers follow specific structures and guidelines for ease in interpretation and compiling the data whereas, the students are free to choose any relevant format while writing the term papers. Never hesitate to consult top paper writing services if you are doubtful about the structure of the research paper.

 We hope that now you have a better understanding of the differences between both these types of academic writing assignments. Always utilize your writing as an opportunity to communicate in creative ways.


Understanding the difference between research papers and term papers is crucial for college-level students. Research papers involve original research, follow a formal writing style, and aim to contribute new knowledge. Term papers assess comprehension, allow for a more informal style, and focus on synthesizing existing knowledge. The time frame, grading criteria, use of citations, and emphasis on originality and creativity also differ. By recognizing these distinctions, students can excel in their academic endeavors.

The best writing papers require one-hundred percent effort, and if you face difficulties in writing them, it is better to take help from the custom paper writing services such as Elite Academic Brokers.If you would like to read more related articles please check this.What make good critical essays.



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